Governor’s FY13 state budget to mirror current year’s

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Lt. Gov. Tim Murray this morning outlined a fiscal 2013 state budget proposal that will look much like the final budget for the current year.

Other than a $145 million increase in Chapter 70 education aid, the major local aid accounts will be level-funded in the bill that the Patrick administration is scheduled to file with the Legislature on Jan. 25.

“The budget we will present next week will not make everyone happy,” Murray told local officials from across the state gathered for the MMA Annual Meeting in Boston, “but there are many positive elements.”

He said the plan “ensures that all school districts are fully funded at the foundation level and that all districts will be funded at an equal or greater level than this year.”

Murray said the administration will also file a transportation bond bill this month that will include $200 million for the Chapter 90 local road and bridge program. This would match the disbursement for the current year and is $45 million more than two years ago.

Murray said the budget bill is based on an expected 4.5 percent increase in state revenues, though the increase will be at least partially offset by increases in costs for health care, safety net programs, and other fixed costs.

“The reality is that the Massachusetts economy is growing, but it still has not fully recovered from the great recession [that began in 2008],” he said.

Overall, he said, more than $5.2 billion in local aid, including $4.1 billion for Chapter 70, accounts for 16 percent of the budget proposal.

The Unrestricted General Government Aid account will be level-funded at $833 million. As was done this year, Murray said the budget bill will include a provision to provide an additional $65 million in local aid if the state has a sufficient surplus at the end of the current fiscal year.

The Legislature provided cities and towns with this additional amount in a supplemental budget bill that was signed in October. The MMA has been urging state leaders to include the $65 million in the base for fiscal 2013.

The administration’s budget would level-fund the special education circuit breaker account ($213 million), the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program for state-owned land ($26.3 million), regional school transportation ($43.5 million), and charter school reimbursements ($71.5 million).

The budget would increase the reimbursement rate for the veterans’ homeless shelter program from 75 percent to 100 percent.

Murray praised the efforts of municipal officials to collaborate on service delivery and said the budget bill will include $7 million for the Community Innovation Grant program, an increase of $3 million. He said the administration received 64 applications this year for the competitive grant program, which “provides financial support for regionalization and other municipal efficiencies.”

Murray, a former city councilor and mayor of Worcester, said, “I know how important it is for cities and towns to have a real partner in the Executive Branch on Beacon Hill.”